By Terry Mock
Follow Terry on Twitter: @SustainLandDev
When Freshwater Tissue Company acquired an old shuttered pulp mill in northern California and announced intentions to convert the facility into an integrated tissue mill, producing toilet paper from sustainably managed forests and thousands of jobs by consuming by-products and disease-prone tanoak logs from the Coastal Redwood Region, the chlorine-free and carbon-neutral business plan was deemed socially, environmentally and economically sustainable by advocacy groups, forest conservation companies, educators, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, foresters and industry experts.
So, it was disappointing to see the latest news that Freshwater is closing the mill permanently because of lack of financial support from banks, private investors and federal stimulus funds. This is just one example of thousands like it. I can’t personally vouch for the business viability of this particular project, but as just about any land developer can tell you, talk is cheap. The bottom-line is that financing for good projects throughout the country is just not available right now for the kind of sustainable economic recovery we need and have been promised. Why not?
I’m reminded of the 1996 film “Jerry Maguire” when Tom Cruise’s character, suffering from stress and a guilty conscience, writes and distributes a mission statement about dishonesty in business entitled, “The Things We Think and Do Not Say: The Future of Our Business.” The famous “Show me the money!” scene epitomizes the empty values of business as usual, yet somewhat paradoxically shows that the pursuit of financial success need not be incompatible with broader goals, which must also include social and environmental value.
This lack of sustainable thinking in financial circles has not gone unnoticed by many in the industry. More than 90 percent of institutional investors questioned in a unique survey of market participants believe financial markets are now threatened by increased “moral hazard” – the belief that banks and other investors will take even more excessive risks based on implicit government guarantees – following the credit crisis bailouts than they did before it, and that fixing this must be a priority to ensure the sustainable functioning of markets. The survey, titled: “Credit Crisis: Business as usual for institutional investors” was carried out by the Network for Sustainable Financial Markets (NSFM), an international on-line network of senior, financial-market professionals and academics, AQ Research the investment research and data group, and Responsible-investor.com.
In response to our own industry’s need for sustainable thinking, SLDI is now entering the pilot phase for its unique Sustainable Land Development Best Practices System. Unlike other standards and certification programs, the SLDI Best Practices System helps to structure a triple-bottom-line (people, planet and profit) decision model that helps development projects achieve greater success in each area. We are interested in engaging participation from all stakeholders in the review of this system.
Your participation and comments are welcome.
Sustainable Financing Info
SLDI Study Provides Revealing Look at the State of the Industry
Show Me the Money Movie Video
NSFM Slide Show
NSFM Guiding Principles
Show me the money: EU divided at summit over how much climate aid to give poor nations
Himalayan states swear by Shimla Declaration over sustainable development
How Goldman secretly bet on the U.S. housing crash
Ron Paul: Let the dollar prove itself